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awakefield

Chance to visit the Salonika Battlefields

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awakefield

Just to let everyone know that details of the September 2015 Salonika battlefield tour have been posted in the classifieds section of the Forum.

To whet your appetite here's an account of the May 2015 Tour:

In the Footsteps of 10th (Irish) Division SCS Battlefield Tour (2 – 9 May 2015)

The first week of May 2015 witnessed the first Salonika Campaign Society ‘Centenary’ tour to the old First World War battlefields in Greece and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). It was fitting to begin these ‘themed’ tours by covering ground once marched and fought over by 10th (Irish) Division, the first element of the British army to arrive in the Balkans during October 1915. With the tour party including representatives of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and Leinster Regiment Associations as well as individuals with family connections to men serving in the Royal Munster Fusiliers and Royal Irish Fusiliers, we had a number of regiments covered. Personal stories of men involved in the campaign flowed freely from members of the group, adding to the narrative and analysis of events I provided as tour guide. Extracts from letters and diaries read at key locations provided a powerful link to past events as did photographs taken by officers and men of the British Salonika Force (BSF). By the tour’s end the names Lt Col H Jourdain and Capt Noel Drury were, through their diaries and photographs, particularly well known to members of the group.
The tour began in Thessaloniki with visits to the large military cemeteries of Mikra and Lembet Road. Both stand on or near sites once occupied by Allied military hospitals but are now hemmed by suburbs of the city. As always the CWGC plots were immaculately maintained as were the French, Italian and Serbian sections at Lembet Road. Whilst in Thessaloniki we also visited landmarks such as the famous White Tower. The ‘Birdcage’ defences of Salonika constructed by British and French troops between December 1915 – May 1916 were also on the itinerary. With hills in the Rendina Gorge covered by dense scrub we were unable to visit the sector worked on by 10th (Irish) Division. Instead the group gained an impression of the effort expended by the soldiers constructing the defences by looking at trenches, machine-gun posts and other remains built by 22nd Division and adjacent French units. We then headed east to Stavros on the Gulf of Rendina. It was here that 29th Brigade landed in late December 1915 to construct the final piece of the ‘Birdcage’. A near deserted beach and a beautiful blue sky welcomed us and the heat enticed some members of the group into the clear waters of the Aegean.
Monday 4 May saw us heading for the Struma Valley via Lahanas (Lahana) on the old Serres road. At Lahanas our Greek guide, Apostolos, gave an account of the battle between Greek and Bulgarian forces during the 2nd Balkan War of 1913, a reminder of just why the British army ended up in the same location less than three years later. After a visit to the CWGC Struma Cemetery, we crossed the River Struma and headed for the villages of Monokklisia (Karajakoi Bala & Karajakoi Zir) and Provotas (Yenikoi). Between 30 September and 4 October 1916 these villages were attacked by elements of 10th (Irish) and 27th Divisions. Looking at this action ‘on the ground’ was even a first for me. Although wet ground prevented our following the line of advance from the Struma, a conveniently unlocked water tower on the edge of Monokklisia provided a welcome vantage point from which to view the flat, open ground across which the assault was made. Our coach then trundled us round the top of the Struma Valley toward Lake Doiran. Near the village of Doirani visits were made to the CWGC’s Doiran Cemetery, where restoration work continues, and the BSF Memorial to the Missing. From the latter is had a fantastic panorama of not only key features of the Doiran battlefield but also the Krusha Balkan Hills, the Beles Mountains and Lake Doiran. The day concluded with our leaving Greece behind and crossing into FYROM.
The following day we were back in the footsteps of 10th (Irish) Division with a visit to the Kosturino battlefield. Driving north of Doiran and through the Dedeli Pass our coach just managed to crawl over the steep hills in front of Kosturino without our having to get out and push. Debussing in the village we ‘entractored and trailered’ for the journey to Rocky Peak. Over the past few years this piece of off-roading has become an integral part of the battlefield tour. Though rough and ready, most travellers agree the novelty value more than makes up for any temporary discomfort. On reaching Rocky Peak visitors are welcomed by a stunning view over the Kosturino battlefield. From this isolated vantage point one can follow the story of the intensive fighting of 7 – 8 December 1915 before going on to walk the actual ground. On the drive back to Doiran we stopped at the 10th (Irish) Division Memorial for an impromptu and moving commemoration. Here wreaths were laid on behalf of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and Leinster Regiment, songs were sung and toasts made as we remembered all those from the division who died during the Gallipoli and Salonika Campaigns.
Although not directly associated with 10th (Irish) Division, no serious battlefield explorer can visit Doiran without walking the hills and ravines over which the BSF fought its two major actions in 1917 and 1918. Passing numerous Bulgarian bunkers the group climbed Grand Couronne to reach the ‘Devil’s Eye’ OP. Over two days the group covered much ground and gained an understanding of the difficult terrain over which the battles were fought. Beyond Doiran we visited the crash site of Lt Paul Denys Montague who served with No.47 Squadron (RFC) and learnt of this talented individual whose life was, like so many others, cut short by war. Finally, on the road to Skopje we called in at the partially excavated Roman city of Stobi. The remains are indeed impressive and members of the group expressed surprise that such a site existed in FYROM.
In all this was a great tour. The group was a good mix of veteran Salonika travellers and new recruits. Everyone got along splendidly and contributed to the tour. The weather was generally excellent, the landscape impressive and often beautiful, the walks packed full of military history and beer at the end of the trail was always cold! Our accommodation beside Lake Doiran was to a level not before experienced on an SCS tour and the local food in all cases was of excellent quality. It was of course great to see all my friends again in both Greece and FYROM. Without this dedicated team of enthusiasts it would be all but impossible to run such great tours. I for one am already looking forward to heading back out to the Balkans in September and maybe October too.

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keithmroberts

I can only confirm what Alan has posted. We had a splendid if at times exhausting week, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I would encourage anyone with an interest is the Salonika campaign to visit with Alan. I might even dig out a couple of photographs later, although I took fewer on this trip.

Keith

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keithmroberts

Alan spares no expense when it comes to executive transport.

post-21979-0-01356700-1432484419_thumb.j

post-21979-0-35835400-1432484493_thumb.j

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keithmroberts

Here's the group on the Devil's Eye, (or the Grand Couronne as it is properly known). Some of the group are on top of the Bulgarian bunker that provided a complete view over the Doiran sector. And yes, we did walk all the way up from a point not far above the town.

post-21979-0-40233100-1432485176_thumb.j

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Kimbra Barrett

Hi 

Thankyou for sharing your wonderful photos.

it means a lot to me!

My gt uncle Oliver Arthur Holt in the Derbyshire Yeomanry died in a cavalry charge at the Greek village of Kapari.in August 1916.

He is mentioned on the war memorial at Lake Dorian.,which was in Bulgarian territory then i believe!

I have been trying to imagine what it was like!

I have a great longing to see where he died as there is a strong connection between us.

I speak quite a bit of modern Greek and would love to talk to some of the locals about it.

For 2 generations the family never knew what happened to him.

I was christened on a shawl he sent back from Egypt.

i had a longing to find out an answer to this mystery that had blighted my mothers family.

i joined The Salonika Society and they told me that on the date Oliver Arther died there were details of how they were told to march to the village and dig in to defend it,only to be surronded by Bulgars and greatly out numbered in a cavalry charge.

there was mention of my gt uncle by his comander who saw him die and his horse.

the description of the terrain and sceenery looked exactly the same on Google earth as it did then.That sent a shiver up my spine.

I now live near Oban in Scotland.

i would be interested to learn more about your tours.

I am usually reasonably fit for my age,but am recently recovering from a cracked kneecap and ribs,so not up for rough rides or long walks.

I hope to be fit again next summer,so please send me details if you think you will be going to Kepari/ Kapari?

best wishes.

Kimbra Barrett

 

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keithmroberts

Provisional details for the SCS tour in  September 2020 are on the SCS website. I have just booked my flights.

There will probably be 2 slightly shorter tours in 2020 Run by Battle Honours and the Cultural Experience.

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awakefield

There is a good chance that we can fit Kepari / Kapari into the itinerary of the September SCS tour - just have to work out what it's modern Greek name is - if the village still exists - or the exact location of the site. Would be good to cover a yeomanry action.

Not so likely we can fit it into either of the shorter tours due to tighter timeframes.

 

ALAN

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Gardenerbill

According to the CWGC Private 75113 A O Holt of the Derbyshire Yeomanry died 20th August 1916 (not sure why the initials are the other way round). In the History of the Derbyshire Yeomanry p140 "A" Squadron charged a Bulgarian unit near the village of Elisan suffering heavy casualties. Just to the East of Elisan on the trench maps is the village of Kumli which I believe is the modern day Greek village of Karperi (Καρπερή Ammoudia (Αμμουδιά).

Edited by Gardenerbill

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apwright
On ‎30‎/‎12‎/‎2019 at 21:38, Gardenerbill said:

Just to the East of Elisan on the trench maps is the village of Kumli which I believe is the modern day Greek village of Karperi (Καρπερή .

 

Elisan is now Karperi. Kumli is Ammoudia.

 

Adrian

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Gardenerbill

Thanks for the correction Adrian that makes sense I will edit my original post. Google maps shows Kumli but it is in between the 2 villages:

 

1704558025_KarperiAmoudiaElisanKumli.png.5ce3cf690624df9d794c60a0ac52e487.png

Edited by Gardenerbill

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awakefield

Made a change for someone to use the modern, rather than wartime place name, hence my confusion over locations!

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